Date of Award

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Information Studies


Murali Venkatesh


Alternative Systems, Honduras, ICTs, Improvisation, Politics, Social Movements

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


There is an important academic conversation happening about how social movements adopt, use, and configure Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for political participation. This dissertation contributes to that conversation by taking a holistic look at ICTs, throughout a social movement's emergence and development, while considering its context, its organizational structures and sense-making processes.

I explore the case of the Honduran National Front Against the Coup (NFAC), a relevant case due to its similarities with other movements, like the use of social media, the support from the international community and its geographically dispersed networks; but also, particular in its political and ICT context.

Guided by the Contentious Politics Model (CPM) asked an overarching research question: What is the role of Information and Communication Technologies in the emergence and development of the National Front Against the Coup?

I also asked three second-level questions: (1) How does the Honduran Resistance Movement relate ICTs to political Opportunity Structures? (2) What role do ICTs play in creating and supporting the movement's organizational structures, and in preparing and carrying out visible movement episodes? (3) How does the NFAC use ICTs to shape its attitudes, identities and competences?

I conducted a single embedded exploratory case study guided by the extended case method where I studied the NFAC in a sequence of interconnected time periods called Collective Action Framing Episodes (CAFEs). Data were reconstructive narratives from primary and secondary sources.

The movement's use of ICTs for mobilizing social support for their cause can be considered an improvised subversive response to the institutionalized political environment.

The movement's regional affiliates formed a loosely coupled extended organization, which allowed the affiliates a degree of autonomy to do their oppositional work while remaining fully aligned with the movement's priorities. ICTs allowed the movement to broadcast its messages across the network to "socialize" the affiliates and ensure they were all on the same page. This lose confederation, coordinated through ICTs allowed the NFAC to dynamically reconfigure and rearrange its regional affiliates as needed.

I found instances of resourcefulness and improvisation, both in the way individual media platforms were used, and in the way these platforms were combined and recombined to move ahead.

Thus, the intellectual contribution of this study is twofold: The first one is an expansion of the CPM (Contentious Politics Model). I propose that ICTs don't drive revolutions, but neither are they simply tools. There is a dynamic relation as environmental conditions (OS) like policies, institutions, ICT ownership, media centralization, shape the way social movements configure ICTs, and ICTs configurations by social movements can influence environmental conditions. The same way ICT configurations can be determined by he availability, collaboration and connectedness of civil society organizations within the movement (MS), and their relations can be influenced by ICT configurations. Therefore, by playing a reflexive role in the process of frame creation, ICTs are embedded in every level of the social movement emergence and development.

The second contribution is an operative framework and analytical tool to study the interactions between social movements, institutions, and ICTs. The model uses CAFEs (Collective Action Framing Episodes), a composed construct that allows integrating several levels of analysis into one unit of analysis.


Open Access